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Iceland Ash Edition

Is that an Icelandic volcano erupting or just the sound of Sarah Palin hosting a nature show on the Discovery Channel? Dig into today’s list and judge for yourself.

On a regular basis, Truthdig brings you the news items and odds and ends that found their way to Larry Gross, director of the USC Annenberg School for Communication. A specialist in media and culture, art and communication, visual communication and media portrayals of minorities, Gross helped found the field of gay and lesbian studies.

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For cutting-edge TV, look to the Web
The International Academy of Web Television revealed its selections last week for the best original online programming at the Streamy Awards in Los Angeles.

Innovation is overrated. It’s time to appreciate the power of the copycat.
But where innovation brings new things into the world, imitation spreads them; where innovators break the old mold, imitators perfect the new one; and while innovators can win big, imitators often win bigger. Indeed, what looks like innovation is often actually artful imitation — tech-savvy observers see Apple’s real genius not in how it creates new technologies (which it rarely does) but in how it synthesizes and packages existing ones.

The Two-Guantanamo Solution
On his first day in office, President Barack Obama promised that he would close the Bush-era prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, “as soon as practicable” and “no later than one year from the date of this order.” The announcement was met with relief, even joy, by those, like me, who had opposed the very existence of Guantanamo on the grounds that it represented a legal black hole where the distinction between guilt and innocence had been obliterated, respect for the rule of law was mocked, and the rights of prisoners were dismissed out of hand. We should have known better.

Ask the card-carrying socialists: Is Obama one of them?
Billy Wharton should be happy.

“Socialized health care” is on its way. The “socialist agenda” is taking over America. And best of all, Barack Obama, a “committed socialist ideologue,” is in the Oval Office.

But Wharton, co-chair of the Socialist Party USA, sees no reason to celebrate. He’s seen people with bumper stickers and placards that call Obama a socialist, and he has a message for them: Obama isn’t a socialist. He’s not even a liberal.

Corporations Aren’t Persons
On February 16, about 200 people gathered on the steps of the Wisconsin state capitol. “It’s fitting that we stand out in the cold,” said Mike McCabe, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. “That’s where the Supreme Court has left us.”

He was referring to the court’s recent decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which granted corporations the right to spend unlimited funds on so-called independent expenditures to influence the outcome of elections. The crowd heartily agreed with McCabe. Signs said: “No Corporate Takeover of Elections,” “Free Speech, Not Fee Speech,” “Money Is Not Speech, Corporations Are Not Persons.” And a chant went up: “Overrule the Court.”

Great Volcano Pix
Today, British civil aviation authorities ordered the country’s airspace closed as of noon, due to a cloud of ash drifting from the erupting Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland. The volcano has erupted for the second time in less than a month, melting ice, shooting smoke and steam into the air and forcing hundreds of people to flee rising floodwaters. The volcanic ash has forced the cancellation of many flights and disrupted air traffic across northern Europe, stranding thousands of passengers. Collected here are photos of the most recent eruption, and of last month’s eruptions, which were from the same volcano, just several miles further east.

‘Drill, Baby, Drill’ comes to Discovery?
The media conglomerate Discovery Communications used to be known for their earth-friendly offerings. But they’ve just paid millions to Sarah Palin to host a “nature” show, despite her decidedly anti-environmental stance: She vocally advocates for habitat-destroying oil drilling, she denies global warming is a human-caused threat, and she spearheaded a brutal wolf-slaughter program as governor of Alaska.

It’s one thing if Fox News gives Sarah Palin a platform. But when Discovery Communications – home to the Discovery Channel, the “Planet Earth” series, the Science Channel, Animal Planet, and TreeHugger.com – gives a show to Sarah Palin, it undercuts everything the Discovery brand has come to represent.

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